In March 2020, our worlds shifted. For some people work, community building and social interactions simply moved online. For others, however, economic, physical, social and emotional wellbeing were immediately threatened.
Prior to the pandemic, the Centre for Connected Communities and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health had been working together to understand what it would take for communities to effectively prepare for, respond to, recover from and bounce forward after an extreme shock event. While we hadn’t anticipated that shock to be a global pandemic, we took the opportunity to learn about community resilience from the people who were living it.
Connected Communities In A Time of Physical Distancing (CCPD) was a co-designed research project that explored the ways that 6 Toronto communities responded to the health, psycho-social and economic stresses that were exacerbated, amplified or created during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. By connecting with grassroots leaders in these communities, researchers explored how the support structures that were in place prior to COVID-19 helped or hindered grassroots responses to the pandemic. Through this project we learned about the kinds of social infrastructure that best support residents and grassroots groups to be active players in the resilience of their local communities.
In conducting this research, we wanted to both honour the lived experience of grassroots leaders and to ensure that the research would be relevant and useful to them. With this in mind, the project was designed using a community-based participatory model that centred grassroots voices through long-form interviews. Using this approach, we interviewed 49 inspirational grassroots leaders in six of Toronto’s most marginalized communities. The findings from this study will be published in academic journals and in podcast format to both build on the current resilience research and make the findings relevant and accessible to communities.
This season of Signal Boost is dedicated to the Connected Communities in a Time of Physical Distancing research project; it explores what we learned, why it matters, and how we can use the learnings to design systems that better support a truly community-centred approach to resilience.
Stay tuned for the first episode, releasing soon!